For those of you on the benefits side of the business, "unintended consequences" may bring to mind the endless list resulting from a 15,000 page piece of legislation that (paraphrasing), "couldn't be understood until it was passed".

But, I'm not talking about the unintended consequences of ACA, I'm talking about the unintended consequences of how too many brokers are still working and running their businesses on traditional or legacy models. Let me give you a few examples.

Your website

Likely intention – Communicate stability by telling the story of the decades you have been in business and the timeline of the "significant milestones" of your evolution.

Unintended consequenceYou make yourself sound old and out of touch with the needs of today's buyer. By focusing on your (hi)story, you miss an opportunity to let the visitor (your prospect) see how you might improve their story.

The fix – Bury your story further back in the site and put "success stories" of how you have brought meaningful results to your clients front and center; make it obvious how you can improve the story of the prospect.

Providing free quotes

Likely intention – Demonstrate value by attempting to save your prospect a little money.

Unintended consequenceYou encourage the prospect to evaluate you on the one thing that makes you just like everyone else. You are asking to be evaluated on something you don't control. You give the advantage back to the incumbent.

The fix – Educate the prospect on how the quoting process works and help them understand that is the process for evaluating the carrier/plan design. Help them to see that they need to choose a broker based on the broker's ability to bring value – not just to the quoting process, but also to the broader business needs of the company.

Overly rich producer renewal commission (and too little on new business)

Likely intention – Attract the best producers.

Unintended consequenceProducers reach a comfortable income level and become complacent. You end up with overpaid and under-qualified service people.

The fix – Increase your commission split for new business, reduce it for renewals, and provide significant bonuses for exceptional new business written.

Lack of a formal sales process

Likely intention – Allow producers to be the "professionals" they are and allow them to use their natural ability to earn business.

Unintended consequenceBecause you have nothing around which to train, you end up with way too many failed producer hires. Your producers fall into the same trap as everyone else without a sales process and depend on a spreadsheet as a way to earn business (see "Providing free quotes" above).

The fix – Take inventory of the multitude ways you can help a business owner (includes insurance and non-insurance solutions) and build a process that helps them to see why they need what you have to offer and to understand the improvement you will bring to their business.

Give away "Value Added Services"

Likely intention – To differentiate yourself from your competition and deliver more value.

Unintended consequence – Because these VASs are not aligned with a specific need nor delivered with effective implementation strategies (see "Lack of a formal sales process" above), they end up not being used, and instead of delivering value, they become a source of frustration for your client and wasted money for you.

The fix – Remind yourself that the value of anything is reflected in its price. If you don't value it enough to charge for it, your client won't value it either. Start by understanding the impact the solution can have, communicate it clearly, and don't be afraid to charge a fair fee for fair value. Besides, you likely paid for the ability to offer the VAS, so why wouldn't the client see the same value?!

Promoting that "service" is your differentiator

Likely intention – Convince your prospects that you care more than anyone else and make them feel they are in good hands.

Unintended consequenceGood service is NOT a differentiator, it is a minimum expectation. You reinforce the prospect's belief that all brokers are the same because EVERY broker promises better service than anyone else. By emphasizing your ability to meet minimum expectations, you miss an opportunity to show your real ability to deliver value.

The fix – Step back and look at your business and identify the real ways you are bringing value differently from your competition. If there are no clear answers, then go back to the "Lack of a formal process" step above.

These are just a few examples of the unintended consequences we expose ourselves to. As you can see, too many are inter-connected and become a cascade of bad outcomes. And notice that they all (directly or indirectly) can be linked back to lack of a formal, buyer-focused, value-based sales process. When you build this, everything else will fall into place.

Now, more than ever before in the evolution of our industry, the challenges you are facing require you to be much more purposeful in the ways you compete. Unintended consequences are not as survivable as they have been in the past. Don't let your own demise be the next unintended consequence.

 

Photo by woodleywonderworks.